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Music Can Help Cancer Patients

Article date: September 14, 2011

By Stacy Simon

Many people find listening to music relaxing, soothing, and enjoyable. For cancer patients, it also can be a way to cope with some of the symptoms of their disease and side effects of their treatment. New research supports listening to recorded music, as well as music therapy, to improve anxiety, pain, mood, quality of life, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure in cancer patients.

Researchers from Drexel University reviewed 30 trials with a total of 1,891 participants. They included music therapy sessions with a trained music therapist and recorded music played by medical staff. Selections included relaxing music in categories that included classical, jazz, folk, rock, country and western, easy listening, new age, big band, Spanish and religious. The researchers were able to scientifically measure a significant improvement in anxiety and mood. They were also able to measure small improvements in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and pain.

Researchers did not have enough information to tell them whether music therapy or listening to recorded music was more effective. But they found that either technique improved cancer patients’ quality of life.

They caution that patients in studies who know they’re receiving treatment may be more likely to report that they’re feeling better. And when the treatment is listening to music, there is no way to conceal it from the patients. So, that may have influenced the study.

The study is published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Professional music therapists serve as part of cancer-management teams in many hospitals and cancer centers, helping to plan and evaluate treatment. Some music therapy services are covered by health insurance. Learn more about incorporating music therapy into a standard cancer treatment plan.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

Citation: Music Interventions for Improving Psychological and Physical Outcomes in Cancer Patients. Published in the 2011 issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Vol. 8). First author: Joke Bradt, Drexel University, Philadelphia.

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